Consider the description of Edward, the English king, in line 146-159 of Act 4, scene 3 of Macbeth. Why is this passage included in the play?

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The passage you are referring to is when Malcolm inquires about the king, and the Doctor gives a brief description of King Edward's healing powers. The Doctor mentions that King Edward has a healing touch, which is a divine gift from heaven. Malcolm proceeds to elaborate on King Edward's healing...

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The passage you are referring to is when Malcolm inquires about the king, and the Doctor gives a brief description of King Edward's healing powers. The Doctor mentions that King Edward has a healing touch, which is a divine gift from heaven. Malcolm proceeds to elaborate on King Edward's healing powers by saying that the king has the ability to cure people of the most strange illnesses, which cannot be remedied using modern medicine. According to the Doctor and Malcolm, King Edward can heal people by simply touching and praying over them.

While these brief passages may seem odd and irrelevant, Shakespeare wrote them to pay tribute and compliment King James, who was known for his "royal touch," where he would presumably heal his subjects by placing his "holy" hands them. King James was also an admirer of the arts and Shakespeare wanted to celebrate the king during the play. King Edward's power to heal also contrasts greatly with Macbeth's tyrannical reputation, which justifies Malcolm's return to Scotland and emphasizes Macbeth's immoral nature.

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In Act 4, scene 3 of Macbeth, a Doctor briefly enters to tell Malcolm something regarding King Edward:

DOCTOR: There are a crew of wretched souls / That stay his cure. Their malady convinces / The great assay of art, but at his touch - / Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand - / They presently amend. (142-147)

It is an odd passage and it initially feels irrelevant. However, it is important for two reasons. First, the description of King Edward is drastically different from the impression Malcolm and Macduff give of Macbeth. King Edward is deemed a saintly and generous king. He is described as being blessed by God. Macbeth, however, is consistently described as being evil. King Edward is represented as a foil to Macbeth.

Secondly, this passage is placed in the play as an homage to the king. Shakespeare often described the leaders of England reverently, as they were typically patrons of his plays. This description of King Edward is, without a doubt, meant as a compliment to the king.

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